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WIU Junior Forensic Chemistry, Spanish Major Named Honorable Mention Winner of Barry Goldwater Scholarship

April 4, 2018

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MACOMB, IL -- Western Illinois University junior Nicole Walker, a forensic chemistry and Spanish double major from Lake Zurich (IL), has been named an honorable mention award winner in the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. Walker is also a student in WIU's Centennial Honors College.

Walker is one of only 11 college students in Illinois named honorable mention award winners. She is the University's third Goldwater honorable mention award winner, with Nicholas Breslin, from Galesburg (IL), capturing the award in 2016 and Hannah Drake, of Charleston (IL), earning the award in 2015.

According to Centennial Honors College Director Rick Hardy, 1,280 students from 455 institutions were nominated for the 2018 Goldwater Scholarship. Of those, 211 were named new Goldwater Scholars and 281 students received Honorable Mentions. Hardy, WIU English Professor and Goldwater Representative Bill Knox, Physics Associate Professor P.K. Babu and Chemistry Assistant Professor Brian Bellott nominated Walker for the award.

"As the director of the Honors College, it is my duty to identify, recruit, educate and promote outstanding students. Nicole first appeared on my academic radar screen three years ago while she was a junior at Lake Zurich High School," Hardy noted in the nomination letter. "Nicole had been taking college-level math and science classes as a sophomore and, according to many accounts, was the brightest student in the entire school. I was fortunate to convince her to attend Western Illinois University. Nicole Walker's remarkable academic acumen is shared widely by everyone who knows her."

During her time at WIU, Walker has maintained a 4.0 grade point average, while dual majoring in forensic chemistry and foreign languages (with an emphasis in Spanish).

Hardy added that Walker was recently one of just handful of sophomores selected nationwide for the Summer 2017 Research Experience for Undergraduate Students (REU), where she conducted research in chemistry at the University of Kansas. She is president of the ACS Chemistry Club and the WIU Chapter of Golden Key International Honour Society. Walker is also involved in the Women in Science Club, R.I.S.E., Blue Key National Honor Society, Phi Eta Sigma and works as a desk assistant at Lincoln, Washington and Grote halls.

In addition to her academic and extracurricular activities, Walker participates in research in Bellott's lab, conducting organometallic synthesis.

"It was really exciting to be nominated for this award, and to receive an Honorable Mention, because only the top STEM students participating in research receive this honor," Walker said. "It means a lot to have my efforts and my research recognized this way."

Following her graduation from WIU, Walker intends to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry.

"To have a student named an Honorable Mention winner for this highly competitive scholarship means that WIU attracts and educates students of the highest caliber," Knox added. "As students at Western, they are guided in a program of classes, laboratory research and conference presentations comprising significant scientific experience and opportunities. To have Nicole Walker, in particular, receive the Honorable Mention for this prestigious award means that her direction of scientific research has potential for even greater recognition."

According to the program's website, the Goldwater Scholarship was established by the U.S. Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. The purpose of the foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue research careers in these fields (see

Learn more about Western's Centennial Honors College at and Western's forensic chemistry program at

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